First-Generation College Students’ Academic Challenges Understood Through the Lens of Expectancy Value Theory in an Introductory Psychology Course

Teaching of Psychology / October 2020

First-generation (FG) college students have been a popular subpopulation to study within educational literature as these students experience many unique challenges in their academic careers causing them to drop out within their first year. This gives courses with high first-time freshman numbers such as introductory psychology courses a unique opportunity to reach many of these students. The purpose of this study is to examine new perspectives of FG students that may further explain hindrances to retention and achievement. One hundred and ninety-three undergraduate students in an introductory psychology course completed surveys on task values in reference to psychology content at three different time points across the semester. Students’ exam scores were also reported as a measurement of academic achievement. Analyses showed that FG college students reported higher levels of cost value and growth in cost value across the semester compared to non-FG college students. FG college students experience academic challenges that may be related to their valuing of their educative experience in psychology courses. Educators should actively attempt to alleviate academic obstacles facing FG college students by increasing access to the professor, ease of access to help, and assignment clarity.